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HR tip: Validity of warnings

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These questions are being answered by Learn HR, a market leader in the provision of HR and payroll training and nationally-recognised professional qualifications.


Question:

"For how long are disciplinary warnings valid? What is meant by a 'warning on file'?"

HR tip:

Normally a final warning remains valid for 12 months and lesser warnings for six months. However, you can make warnings longer or shorter than these norms if you feel there is good reason so to do. You might, for example, give an employee a final warning for brandishing a knife, or for committing sexual or racial harassment, but feel that you would dismiss if he committed a similar offence ever again, in which case it would remain valid indefinitely. Most important is that you make clear in the body of the written warning the length of time for which it will remain valid.

A warning is 'valid' if it remains live and thus may be used against the employee. If, after receiving a six-month written warning, an employee after four months misbehaves again, he may be given a final warning – but not if the offence recurred after nine months. A warning 'on file' means that a record of it remains in his personnel file. Many employers keep a warning on file for six or 12 months after it has expired in case a pattern emerges, but then destroy it.

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